It comes as no surprise that Scott Rook is sweet on the Arkansas River, which winds southeast past Ft. Smith, Little Rock and Pine Bluff on its way to the Mississippi. Rook was born and raised in Little Rock and is content to stay put.
“I cut my teeth on the Arkansas River,” Rook says. “I’ve done more bass fishing there than anywhere else.”
The Mills Pool, southeast of Pine Bluff, is the most productive stretch of water on the Arkansas River, Rook claims. In the spring, he fishes the pool’s two large backwater areas, 538-acre Coal Pile and 2,500-acre Merrisach Lake.
“Merrisach Lake has a lot of shallow milfoil, stumps and old timber,” Rook says.
When the water warms to the low 50s in Merrisach, Rook retrieves a chartreuse lipless crankbait slowly over submerged grass.
“When the bait catches the grass, I pull it loose and let it shimmy down for a moment,” Rook says. “I catch a lot of bass doing that.”
In Coal Pile, Rook fishes the many green cypress trees. His go-to lure is a 3/8-ounce Jewel J Lock Flipping Jig tipped with a Zoom Chunk. A hot color is green pumpkin with a touch of orange or blue.
Rook pitches the jig to the cypress trees with a St. Croix heavy action flippin’ rod and 20-pound Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon line. Many fishermen overlook the bass because they pitch their baits only into the shade of the cypress trees.
“Early in the spring, the bass often prefer the warmer, sunny side of the tree,” Rook says.
Rook keeps a firm grip on his flippin’ stick when the bass commence spawning. However, he switches to a 6-inch Texas rigged blueberry lizard with a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce bullet sinker. Because the water is usually too stained for sight fishing, Rook pitches the lizard next to any cover he finds on shallow spawning flats.
“I do better on the main river in the summer,” Rook says. “That’s when bass chase baitfish around wing dams and sandbars in the current.”
From May through August, Rook fishes no deeper than 5 feet. Whenever a current is present, he heads for wing dams that jut into the river. These riprap structures direct the current flow and reduce sedimentation in the main river channel.